I’m Italian, so why is “The Mentor” set in London?

The easiest way to answer this question is with another question: why not? The reason is more or less the same that made me write a series set on Mars (Red Desert), even if I live on Earth: because I write fiction, so I don’t put limits to the setting of my stories.

But there’s more than this.
When choosing the setting for a story, you must be sure that such a setting is credible to you, otherwise if you don’t believe that such story could happen in a certain location, you won’t be able to write it.
It doesn’t matter whether it could actually happen there or not. If you don’t believe that, it wouldn’t work.

Moreover you must “know” the place you are going to move your characters in. It isn’t strictly necessary you’ve visited it (I’ve never been to Mars, of course, but I’ve been to London many times), but you must have a way to see the place in your mind, because you’ll have to describe it and imagine your characters in it.

Finally you have to think about your target audience. What kind of place could appeal to your readers?

So let’s see these three factors in my novel.
As you may know, “The Mentor” is a crime thriller involving a serial killer who’s revenging the murders of her family occurred when she was just a child. The story takes place in 2014.
Would London be a credible place for such a story? Of course yes, actually any big city in this world would be a credible place. But I’m European, so if I have to think about a big city, London is my first thought.
But why didn’t I choose Rome or Milan? Quite easy: I don’t know them well enough. I know the centre of Milan and I like it, but that’s all. It happened to me to stay there no more than a couple of days in a row, not enough to projecting my characters there. Same problem with Rome, but I’ve been there even less than to Milan.
Moreover I must say that my idea of the story was too dramatic to be set in one of those two cities, which in my mind would make it even more dramatic, gloomy, and sad.

Instead, London was an easy choice. I’ve been there many times; I perfectly know how to move on it by foot, at least in the centre (most of the story is set in the City of Westminster and the City of London, but also the zone near Arsenal tube station, because I’ve been there, too). Where my personal experience doesn’t arrive, there’s a book, a film, a TV series, which comes helping me to learn more about the place and the people.
Moreover, in spite of the less sunny climate (well, Milan isn’t very sunny either), it is such a beautiful, lively, and diverse city that if you imagine a dramatic story in it, with many people killed, at least in my mind, the story’s mood is mitigated by the contrast.

Surely there could be more places in Italy suitable to host a story like this, but unfortunately the fact I’m Italian doesn’t mean I’m an expert in every thing regarding Italy. Though I’ve visited each single Italian region during my life, I’m no more an expert than any foreign tourist, because Italy includes so many differences. I wouldn’t feel confident in setting a story in a place different from my region/island (Sardinia) and in the present. Because I wouldn’t know enough of it, not even indirectly from books, films, or TV series.

So why I haven’t set the story in my own city? I know Cagliari perfectly, it’s a sunny city which would mitigate the drama of the story, yet a serial killer in Cagliari wouldn’t be credible in the present, because fortunately we very rarely have murders here. And definitely I can’t think of any serial killer.

What about the target audience? My target audience are Italian readers, because my books are first written in Italian, and Italians love London, many of them have been there at least once and can see in their minds the places. And many of them have seen it in films, TV series or read about it in novels regarding crimes.

But in the end the only thing that matters is that London is the place I was comfortable in figuring out the story in. That’s it. I’m a fiction writer and I have to set my stories where I like and with my rules (read more about this subject on this post about the licences I took regarding the police in London).
Some people like to describe the reality in which they live in their books. I like and respect this.
But I’m not like this.
I find writing about my everyday world plain boring. I love to live in my everyday world, in my wonderful city and island. I don’t need to write about it.
When I write, I want to travel, imagine places and situations very far, in any sense, from where I live, which aren’t part of my everyday life and probably will never be. Writing is a way to experiences events that could never occur to me (fortunately!) just for the fun to control them and make even the worst of them more acceptable thanks to this control.

So that’s why “The Mentor” is set in London.

Anyway, if you are interested in exploring my country while reading crime novels set in Italy, I definitely have a couple of suggestions for you that are available in English.
Here they are.

Chase William’s series set in Tuscany and written by Stefania Mattana.
Chase William is a British expatriate living in a small town in Tuscany called Tursenia. He is a former Scotland Yard detective, working in an import-export company, but for some reasons crimes happen around him all the time, so his friend Angelo Alunni, an Italian inspector, involves him in the investigations.
One of the interesting things of this series is the contrast between a typical Italian setting and a typical British character, which makes the stories quite funny at times.
Stefania is very good in describing the confrontation between two different cultures. Her secret: she is an Italian (actually, Sardinian) expatriate living in London.

Here are the books in her series:



Maresciallo Maggio’s series set in Viserba (near Rimini) and written by Francesco Zampa.
This is a typical Italian crime series. The main character is a “maresciallo” of Carabinieri (a military force investigating crimes, just like the police does), his name is Franco Maggio. Even if Viserba is a just a village on the Adriatic Riviera, apparently crimes, including murder, are very common, at least in fiction.
This series is a mix of crime story and a close look on the people living in Viserba, including Maggio himself and his work as Carabiniere.
Francesco is a great narrator of real people’s and crime stories. His secret: he is a real Carabiniere.

Here are the books in his series available in English (more will come in the future):